Phil Neville: I love what Ole's doing at United
We were joined by Manchester United royalty on today's 'MUTV Group Chat' when Treble winner and manager of the England women's team Phil Neville joined us for a catch-up.
“It's not too bad really. I think probably you're all the same. We never get this amount of time to spend at home with our families, and to just enjoy our family time. I've got to say, football is the one thing that I think we're all missing. But, ultimately, when you see the tragedies every single day, you know that there's something serious going on in the world. With my job as a manager, we're having constant contact with our players. They're in a situation where they're training hard but they don't know what they're training for, or when they're going to come back. So I think the most important thing is that everyone just stays safe really.”
“No, it actually was my 5k time! I was running with my son Harvey, because he's got a programme off the youth team coach at United, so I'm following his bloody programme! It's been absolutely brutal, to be fair. But the times were actually the times that we did, but my Strava time stopped and played up a little bit, so we screenshotted his Strava time, I promise!”
“I was in the car, Maysie!”
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“Yeah, I don’t think you ever leave. You go and do different things, but I think Man United is one of those clubs that never let you leave. You're always asked to functions, to dinners. Every interview that I've done over the last month – a couple of weeks ago I think it was the anniversary of the semi-final replay [against Arsenal] – you're constantly talking about the Treble, the great times we had, great team-mates and players that you played with, Sir Alex, the boss. So I think it’s a club that never leaves you regardless of where you are in the world or at any stage in your career. It will always be that case, I think.”
“It was strange really because I've still got 14 months left on my contract. So when it leaked last week, I was like: I've still got 14 months left. I was getting messages off the players thinking that I was leaving straight away, but because of the decision to put the Euros back – obviously that was my goal, to manage at the Euros next summer, with the first game being at Old Trafford – but because that was put back, it got out that I wouldn’t be in charge then for the Euros in 2022. So ultimately, I think it’s died down now and it’s just business as usual really. There’s still a long way to go.”
“I think because it seems so long away, 14 months, we’ve got another eight camps and maybe an Olympics to go to, so it’s in the back of my mind. I approach it as I did with the end of my career, as I did when I left Valencia, it's with a completely open mind. If you’d told me five years ago that I’d have lived in Spain or been in charge of the women’s national team, I would have said ‘no way’. But I’m open-minded, and whatever opportunities come my way I will look at. But, ultimately, the biggest thing I want to do is finish the job with the Lionesses, which I’ve absolutely loved.”
“I think that what I would say is that international management can be really frustrating. You only get the girls or your team for 10-12 days and it’s so intense – 24 hours a day you’re managing and then you let them go back to their club managers and you can’t impact them for another three or four weeks. The best period are the tournaments and you can get them for 50 or 60 days and it feels like a club. I think when you’re young in management and you’ve got that energy, day-to-day is probably now the next thing I’m probably looking for because of the energy, and I want to impact players more than on the international level. But what I would say is that on the international level, it gives you the time in between camps to reflect and review and to learn and go and watch best practice. That is probably the bonus of being an international manager.”
“She was my assistant for the first six months. I met her and straight away I thought: this coach is going to be really top. Within probably three months I knew that she was getting frustrated with having no time on the grass and no matches really to cover, because of the international calendar. So the job at United came up and I told her: 'You've got to go for it.' She’s one of the best young coaches in the world, without a shadow of a doubt. The way she went into United and built a team within three months, she then got them promotion, then the performances this year have been phenomenal. I think United are very lucky to have someone with that experience and standing within the women’s game, but also someone that is an outstanding coach, and that should be something that everyone should know.”
“Yeah, we were so close, but the difference I found is that when you go out on the pitch and do a training session, the sessions are no different for what you’d put on for a male or a female. I think the biggest thing is when you go in the gym, or the physicality of the game. I have to say, the girls are improving so much because of the facilities and the coaching now and the investment that they're getting on that side. But in the summer we were so close and it was probably the physical side that just got to us in the end, in terms of the physical power of the American girls. The Americans, they have an extra 110 days more contact time with the players than we have. They’re [a] full-time programme, and their strength, speed and condition [are ahead]. We’ve just employed their physical coach and I have to say that some of the stuff that they go for and the time that they have to implement that stuff, it shows why they’re physically better than any other team in the world. They'll take a lot of work to catch, but the world is catching them up with the amount of investment that Europe is now putting into women’s football.”
“People talk about that period as being really negative, but I absolutely loved it. I was already out there. I joined the Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo – he had hired me as one of his coaches. He got sacked and then Gary came in. The three-four month period that Gary was there, it was just fantastic. The players loved him, we did some really good work. We had an unbelievable schedule of fixtures. We played every three days for three months. It’s a brilliant club, but it’s the most volatile club you could ever wish to work for. The language barrier was I think the biggest thing that Gary probably struggled with, in terms of communication. You know what Gary's like – his communication is his biggest strength. But in terms of the work that he did, he did a fantastic job. I still tell him to this day that he should get back into management as soon as possible, because I know he was probably burnt by that experience, but ultimately it was an experience that he shouldn't measure himself against. We had a laugh. At Valencia they have this song, whenever they want a manager to leave, and it's a joke within the club. They always say the name of the manager... So it was 'Neville, vete ya' which is 'Neville go home' or whatever. And there was one game where we went two goals down, I think it was against Espanyol, and they started singing 'Neville, vete ya' and we looked at each other and said, 'Who are they aiming that at, me or you, Gaz?! I think it's both! But it was a great experience.”
“Well he's stubborn. The guys that know Gary know that he makes these comments and statements and he's very stubborn. But ultimately what will happen with Gary is that he's obviously got a lot on his plate. He's involved in a lot of things, doing great work, but there will come a day when he will get an offer, like he did with Valencia. Before he got the Valencia job he was never going to go into management, and then obviously the owner of Valencia, who's a good friend of ours, said 'I need you' and he got excited by it. So I would never rule it out, and I still think he should go back into management and give it a go in the English Premier League or in the Championship or in English football.”
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“It's been difficult, I've got to say. Every step and every jump has been really difficult and harder and more intense. I'd say that when we first signed you, Danny [Webber], they were the enjoyable years when there didn't seem to be that much expectation and pressure. Now there is, you're dealing with cut-throat chairmans, leagues, players' agents, finances, and it's been a real challenge. But I've got to say that every time we go out there, you have to pinch yourself. Look at the new stadium and the facilities that we've got, and the manager we've got who's doing a great job as well.”
“And now we're sat in a prawn sandwich [area] behind the box! To be fair, it's no different to the feeling that we had at United. Everybody wants to kill us, everybody wants to beat us. You watch one of the [opposition] teams play the week before and they're bottom of the league. They come and play us and they play like Barcelona – it's unbelievable! But that's the measure of the club really. It's brilliant. It's probably the best thing that I've ever been involved in.”
“And you went to bed at half-seven in the morning!”
“Was that in your first season? That was in '99 wasn't it? Footballers nowadays, they don't share rooms together. They all have their own sleep patterns and their way. But it's funny, with the Lionesses, the first thing I wanted to introduce was single rooms, so they could sleep when we passed through different time zones, and not one single one of them wanted it. They liked the camaraderie. They liked their friendships on the camps. They liked the company within the rooms, and they just would not do that.”
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“I love what's going on. I know there was a little bit of negativity and stuff, but I remember watching a game – I think it was Aston Villa, 2-2 – and I came away and I just saw a different type of football. Faster, more energy, and more forward-thinking. It was actually good to watch. I spoke to Ole – I drop him a text every now and then – just 'Keep going, I think the fans are actually liking what they're seeing'. Regardless of Ole being a legend of the club, the signings in the summer were young, adventurous, they gave the club a little bit of energy, and I think you can see the direction now that the club is going in. I think we've not had that now for probably two or three years. He's going to get time; he's blooding all these young players. When I speak to United supporters outside the ground, I can see a genuine energy and a genuine feeling that regardless of the results or where we are in the table, I think they can see the pathway and the journey that we're going now. It's what we want to see as a Man United supporter, and we're all Man United fans. I think we have to go away from the fact from signing these big galacticos and all that, and just sign good, young, hungry players that are going to come in and make this club better.”
“It has to be. You can't change the philosophy or the history of the club. The whole club's been successful in buying good, young, hungry players or producing good, young, hungry players. You look at Brandon and Mason that have come in this season... Jimmy Garner, who's probably close. You've got so many young players coming through, and we've got a manager who wants to put them in and build teams round them. You go back to Busby, you go back to all the great managers, and that's what they've done. It's not rocket science, and probably we went away from that with the previous two managers that we had.”
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“I hated it. Because you imagine the family [situation]! My dad wanted United win, my mum just wanted me and my brother to get through the game unscathed. My twin sister was obviously in the Everton end, so it tore the whole family apart. It was just one of the games where I found it... if United won, I probably got criticism from the Everton fans for being a United fan. If Everton won, my family wouldn't speak to me! It was just one of those awkward situations – I just wanted that game out of the way.”
Your brother blanked you in the tunnel when he was the captain!
“I was speaking to him about it the other day. It was one of the early games, and I went down the tunnel, and you just think: he's going to say 'hello'. And he didn't. He's going to say something. I turned round. Giggsy said 'hello', Scholesy said 'hello'. I think Wes was there and said 'hello'. And then there's a camera right in front of where the captains are and I thought: typical Gary – he's playing to the cameras, playing for show. The minute we went past the camera, seriously, he went: 'Alright Phil, how's it going?' I went: what an absolute idiot. For the cameras, for Sky Sports and his image, he thought: I'm not saying 'Hello' to him. I thought: nah, that's not for me, kidda.”
Thank you so much for joining us today. I know you've got things to do and more important people to speak to, but we really appreciate it, and it's great to see you.
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